Doctors Win Battle but Lose WarPresident Kim Dae-jung stated that he plans “to revise pharmaceutical laws during next month’s National Assembly special session” at the June 24 meeting with opposition Grand National Party (GNP) leader Lee Hoi-chang. After the announcement, doctors who gathered at the Korea Medical Association (KMA) applauded the victory they‘d won at the cost of a five day strike. The massive medical strike, which had put patients in dangerous situations with tragic consequences, was over.
Doctors were pleased, yet public reaction was a mix of relief and anger. Policy manager for the Coalition of Health Kang Chang-gu warned, “Doctors might think they emerged victorious, but they lost the respect and trust of the public.”
Kang continued, “They redefined their status from doctors to medical technicians. Who can respect and rely on these doctors who took off their lab coats and endangered people’s lives to obtain their interests? Whatever their agenda is, their actions are inexcusable.”
Irrationally, doctors emphasized that the shut-down was their only recourse in order to maintain their rights. This sentiment was heard before the emergency meeting at which they cast ballots to determine their position.
For whom, however do doctors’ rights exist? An indignant internet user posted this opinion on the net: “The doctors’ shut-down is essentially indiscriminative terror toward an unspecific majority.” A restaurant posted a sign outside its doors that read: “We don’t serve doctors.” Such sentiments indicate how massively they failed to win the public‘s support. Any movement that fails to persuade the public of its rightfulness can never be justified.
The government displayed a lack of competency and wisdom in tackling this grave problem and should be ashamed. They displayed only weakness in this crucial situation when almost all of the nation’s hospitals shut-down. Just two days prior to the shut-down, Health-Welfare Ministry presented countermeasures to stop doctors from entering the strike. The mood became calm, though not entirely resolved, after the president’s involvement.
Doctors have in any case returned to their posts. They must realize that to strike is never the optimal measure to solve their problems. They have to minimize the potential problems that will develop when reform goes into effect July 1. The public expects doctors to display wisdom and play an active role to pacify the Korea Pharmaceutical Association’s recent complaints.
by Ki Sun-min